HAIDA GWAII - OH DEER!
Feeling a bit tired from all the wandering today and may be challenged to write an interesting story this evening, but I’ll give it a shot. Actually, I’m one day behind the actual activities so this is yesterday’s wanderings, which will make it even more challenging to remember all that took place.
Besides bald eagles and sandhill cranes and a variety of other birds, the most prominent wildlife on the island is the Sitka black-tailed deer. The deer were introduced to Haida Gwaii for hunting in 1898 and, with no natural predators, have thrived….to say the least. It is common to see several foraging along the side of the road in a short distance. They are much less “twitchy” than the white-tailed deer we’re used to on the prairies – they just kind of raise their heads and watch you roll by. Not that I’d stake my life on it, mind you. The deer are, as one might imagine, rather a problem now and a program of eradication has begun to allow the vegetation to recover. Sheesh – you’d think they would have thought about that when they introduced them way back when. What part of “no natural predators” did you not understand? Of course, for the average tourist, it’s kind of cool to see them and they stand still for photographs very nicely.
Today’s direction was south from Port Clements, to see if agates could be found on the beach and maybe check out some of the local art if anything was open on a Sunday. Timing departure for low tide, we arrived at the beach at Tlell where we expected to pick agates. The tide was indeed waaayyy out – I figure it was a kilometer to the ocean from the beach head. With a calm wind and the sun making an appearance, it was a very enjoyable hour beachcombing for agates. Didn’t find any, but using the binoculars to peruse the beach, we did spot the shipwreck we had heard about a couple more kilometers down the beach. Only the hull of the boat still exists and I imagine with the right light, it would make quite the picturesque scene. It was a bit further than could be walked before the tide was back in. We were surprised to see how far in it had come in the short time we were there.
Toodling down the road again, we found the turnoff for the Crystal Cabin. This was begun many years ago by a man who was into the energies and properties of stones and started the business. When he died, his daughters continued. Outside of the Crystal Cabin is the Tlell Stone Circle. This is a circle of different rocks, mounted in welded formations to represent 62 million years of Haida Gwaii geological history. The display includes thunder eggs, rare fossils, ancient wood and island crystals. According to the Haida Gwaii visitor’s guide (which has become my go-to source these days), the creator, Dutes Dutheil, aligned the circle energetically with a Gwaii Haanas vortex which connects Haida Gwaii with other power spots such as the Egyptian pyramids, Canmore Banff, and Mauna Kea in Hawaii. My Tracey would have loved the Crystal Cabin and its stone circle!
The Crystal Cabin itself is full of stones and jewellery and carvings from local artists. Despite my protestations of not wanting stuff, I got sucked in by a small bear carved from rhyolite with a striking fire opal in its structure. Sigh. Damn stones.
Even though the museum wasn’t open in Skidegate, we had determined to go down there and see if we could spot any whales. Apparently, a pod had been through over the past few days. The girl at the Crystal Cabin told us of the Anvil Trail along the way and so that was added to the route.
The Anvil Trail turned out to be a gem as well. A shady, forested walk, the trail is well marked with arrows and markers to help you stay on track. It’s a good thing too – there are many opportunities to go astray if you aren’t paying attention. The walk is a study in forest succession, beginning with an area of early forest succession, marked by a dense population of Sitka spruce saplings and western hemlock. The closed canopy doesn’t allow much light to reach the forest floor, and frankly, it looks more dead than alive, with a bed of needles and little greenery. Carrying along the trail, there was plenty of insect life and I graciously cleared the trail of cobwebs for anyone who was to come behind me! Noticing some striking black and yellow centipedes, I stopped to take a look and there were a whole bunch of them writhing around in a little built up bunch of needles and soil in the middle of the path. I assume there were “rituals” going on, but took a couple of pictures anyway. After all, it’s not like they’re going to go viral as an adult video. As we walked the trail, we began to see a lot of these little episodes. Wondering out loud at the wisdom of the centipedes, creating their little orgy pits in the middle of the trail, Peter’s comment was “Yeah. Get a room”. 😊 But I digress….
The next stage of forest we passed through was, as one might imagine, in the middle succession stage, where the trees have become taller, a natural thinning has occurred and more light is reaching the forest floor. Enter more evidence of greenery – ferns, thick moss, and shrub undergrowth. At this point, the trail was approaching the Tlell River. A little rest stop was in order to walk along a fallen tree trunk and admire the pretty scene. Thought the water is not tempting to drink, being brackish and brown, it makes a picturesque contrast to the intense green of the forest around it. It was while descending to the river that we noticed a red-headed woodpecker banging away on a big spruce. I got out the camera with the good zoom lens and had just caught him in my sight nicely when he scooted around the other side of the tree. We played this "round-the-Sitka-spruce" game a couple of times, but I waited him out and finally got a reasonable shot, though it is not in the nature of a woodpecker to sit still for long.
Starting to feel the grumblings of hunger, we took the shorter trail back and, lo and behold, passed through the mature forest. After a huge forest fire in the 1800s, this part is fully recovered and in mid-to-late succession, characterized by large Sitka spruce, western hemlock and cedar. We made our way through the peaceful and fragrant forest, carefully following the markers and trying to avoid the humps of writhing centipedes as we went. A quick stop at the Crowsnest Café and Country Store for a bite to eat and we still had time to get over to Skidegate for whale spotting.
Behind the Haida Cultural Centre, there is a bench overlooking the inlet between Sandspit and Skidegate. Upon arrival, there was quite a chittering of birds on the rocks below. Striking birds with black bodies, white wing feathers and the brightest orange webbed feet! Turned out to be guillemots and a very entertaining crew. Whether it was mating rituals or males competing, we weren’t sure but there was a good deal of calling, flapping and carrying on, in and out of the water. During one of these episodes, we were watching two of them having it out in the water and all of a sudden, the ones on the rocks flew to the water. A split second later, they all dived as a bald eagle came swooping over the water, making a big circle and clearly hoping for a quick lunch. Miraculously, I had my phone on video and caught the event. After an hour of watching guillemots, seeing the ferry crossing the inlet and waving at a couple of kayakers, we gave up on the whales and went for our reservation at the Haida House for dinner.
We have been dismayed at the lack of interesting food on Haida Gwaii. Having expected a plethora of fresh seafood and being confronted with pub food, burgers and fish and chips, we were looking forward to dinner at the Haida House, which the locals said is where you go for a “nice meal, but expensive”. In truth, it was no more expensive than anywhere in the city and the meal was indeed delicious. Somewhere along the road in the morning we had remembered that it was an anniversary and the Haida House brought my dessert with a little chocolate “Happy Anniversary on it”. It’s almost like they know me…. 😊
Full to the brim, we headed back to Port Clements. The owners of the guest house had invited us over for a beach party they were having and we headed over there to say hi. Met a bunch of locals and had a good time yakking and enjoying the company. Great bunch of folks who all love where they live.
Well, so much for having nothing to drag out of my tired brain.....apparently I just can't help myself. Still a couple more blogs to go for this little junket, so if you have been entertained at all, stay tuned for Day 4 tomorrow!
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Hi. My name is Alyson. In 2018, I started this blog as I completed a 27,000 km motorcycle trip through every province and territory of Canada.